The Colossus of Rhodes
To you, O Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze
statue reaching to Olympus when they had pacified the waves of war
and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not
only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch
This is the dedicatory inscription of the Colossus
Colossus of Rhodes was a 30-m (100-ft) bronze statue of the Greek
sun god Helios, erected about 280 BC to guard the entrance to the
harbor at Rhodes; it was destroyed about 55 years later.
About Rhodes: Rhodes
was the capital of the Greek island Rhodes and was built in 408
B.C. It was designed to take advantage of the island's best natural
harbor on the northern coast. The island formed an important economic
centre in the ancient world. It was located off the southwestern
tip of Asia Minor where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean.
In 357 B.C. the
island was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus (whose tomb is
one of the other Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), It fell into
Persian hands in 340 B.C.and got captured by Alexander the Great
in 332 B.C.. When Alexander died of a fever at an early age, his
generals fought bitterly among themselves for control of Alexander's
vast kingdom. Three of them, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigous, succeeded
in dividing the kingdom among themselves.
About the Statue:
The Colossus however
stood on a promentory overlooking the city; erected in about 280
BC by the citizens of Rhodes. It was said as high as 105 feet high.
Legend has it that it straddled the entrance to the harbour, but
it probably stood to one side. The statue of Liberty is sometimes
referred to as the "Modern Colossus". The Statue of Liberty, roughly
of the same size, weighs 225 tons. The Colossus, which relied on
weaker materials, must have weighed more than the Statue of Liberty.
This Statue of
Liberty was a gift from France to America and is easily recognized
by people around the world. However, what many visitors do not know
is that the statue, the "Modern Colossus," is the echo of another
statue, the original colossus that stood over two thousand years
ago at the entrance to another busy harbor on the Island of Rhodes.
Very alike the Statue of Liberty, this colossus was also built as
a celebration of freedom.
The Greek sculptor
Chares worked for 12 years on the statue. He used stone blocks and
about 7 1/2 short tons (6.8 metric tons) of iron bars to support
the hollow statue. It was built in 280 BC,and unfortunately knocked
down by an earthquake in 224 BC. The huge pieces were left where
they fell and were looked upon with awe for centuries to come. Nearly
a thousand years later, in AD 656, a scrap metal dealer bought the
pieces and had them melted down.
very past, Greece comprised of city-states that limited power beyond
their boundary. Ialysos, Kamiros, and Lindos formed three such regions
on the island of Rhodes. In 408 BC, the cities united to form one
territory, with a unified capital, Rhodes. The city thrived commercially
and had strong economic ties with their main ally, Ptolemy I Soter
In 305 BC, the
Antigonids of Macedonia who were also rivals of the Ptolemies, besieged
Rhodes in an attempt to break the Rhodo-Egyptian alliance.
The Rhodians supported
Ptolemy (who wound up ruling Egypt) in this struggle. This angered
Antigous who sent his son Demetrius to capture and punish the city
The war was long
and painful. Demetrius brought an army of 40,000 men. This was more
than the entire population of Rhodes. He also augmented his force
by using Aegean pirates.
The city was protected
using a strong, tall, wall and the attackers were forced to use
siege towers to try and climb over it. Siege towers were wooden
structures often armed with catapults that could be moved up to
a defender's walls to allow the attackers to scale them. While some
were designed to be rolled up on land, Demetrius used a giant tower
mounted on top of six ships lashed together to make his attack.
This tower, though, was turned over and smashed when a storm suddenly
approached. The battle was won by the Rhodians.
Demetrius had a
second supertower built. This one stood almost 150 feet high and
some 75 feet square at the base. It was equipped with many catapults
and skinned with wood and leather to protect the troops inside from
archers. It even carried water tanks that could be used to fight
fires started by flaming arrows. This tower was mounted on iron
wheels and could be rolled up to the walls.
attacked the city, the defenders stopped the war machine by flooding
a ditch outside the walls and miring the heavy monster in the mud.
By then almost a year had gone by and a fleet of ships from Egypt
arrived to assist the city. Demetrius withdrew quickly leaving the
great siege tower where it was.
As a mark of celebrating
their victory and freedom, the Rhodians decided to build a giant
statue of their patron god Helios. They melted down bronze from
the many war machines Demetrius left behind for the exterior of
the figure and the super siege tower became the scaffolding for
the project. According to Pliny, a historian who lived several centuries
after the Colossus was built, construction took 12 years. Other
historians place the start of the work in 304 B.C..
The project was
commissioned by the Rhodian sculptor Chares of Lindos. To build
the statue, his workers cast the outer bronze skin parts. The base
was made of white marble, and the feet and ankle of the statue were
first fixed. The structure was gradually erected as the bronze form
was fortified with an iron and stone framework. To reach the higher
parts, an earth ramp was built around the statue and was later removed.
When the colossus was finished, it stood about 33 m (110 ft) high.
And when it fell, "few people can make their arms meet round the
thumb", wrote Pliny.
The statue was
110 feet high and stood upon a 50 feet tall pedestal near the harbor
mole. Although the statue has been popularly depicted with its legs
spanning the harbor entrance so that ships could pass beneath, it
was actually posed in a more traditional Greek manner: nude, wearing
a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right
hand, while holding a cloak over its left.
The statue was
constructed using bronze plates over an iron framework. According
to the book of Pilon of Byzantium, 15 tons of bronze were used and
9 tons of iron, though these numbers seem low.
tell us that inside the statue were several stone columns which
acted as the main support. Iron beams were driven into the stone
and connected with the bronze outer skin. Each bronze plate had
to be carefully cast then hammered into the right shape for its
location in the figure, then hoisted into position and riveted to
the surrounding plates and the iron frame.